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From left volunteers Monica Steiner, Jill Cornell and Donna Ostvig at Trinity Lutheran in Long Lake handing out community meals provided by the Red Rooster. (Submitted photo)

Trinity Lutheran Church in Long Lake is working with Orono Community Education, local churches and restaurants to bring the community together through food as well as provide free meals to those in the west Hennepin area.

There have been three community meals so far, with plans to continue every Thursday in May from 5:30-6:30 p.m. The meals are served out of Trinity’s commercial kitchen and follow all recommended COVID-19-related precautions. The free meals area made easily available for people to drive up, pick up their food and take it home.

“Instead of sitting down and kibitzing, folks pick up their dinners and take their food back to their homes, but this way of coming together shows we are [here] for one another,” Jeri Miller, Trinity’s Director of Facilitie,s said.

The latest community meal took place on Thursday, April 30, and 100 meals from Red Rooster were available. According to Hospitality Coordinator Kristin Nafstad, Red Rooster donated all 100 meals, which included pulled pork, coleslaw and chips. In support, Trinity purchased $500 worth of Red Rooster gift cards to give out to families who picked up the meals.

Trinity has also worked with the Church of St. George and Calvin Presbyterian Church to provide monthly meals on a rotating basis for the past three years. Those meals were served in the churches and offered a place for people to talk and connect and are separate from Trinity’s community meals on Thursdays.

“We wanted to find a way to continue to reach out to our community, especially those who might be in need of a hot meal. We came up with the idea to do a driv- up,” Nafastad said.

Each Thursday will feature a different meal. Nafstad said they will be switching it up every week and are working with restaurants and grocery stores to purchase meals at a discounted rate.

“We have reached out to other restaurants. McGarry’s is [providing food] in two weeks and they’re giving us a great discount for our 100 meals. This week, we’re ordering from Coborn’s to mix it up,” she said.

Volunteer Monica Steiner has been a member of the church since 2011 and began getting involved with the community meals as a way to reach out into the community. Pre-pandemic, Steiner would see people gathering around tables while catching up with one another. When the church decided they wanted to continue community meals but with social distancing in mind, Steiner decided to continue to volunteer her time.

“I think it’s a great outreach to the community. I loved being involved in things like that and I love to volunteer,” she said.

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